Asbestos activist dies at 61
Bernie Banton, the Australian asbestos victim who led an international fight for compensation from building materials giant James Hardie Industries NV, died yesterday after a long battle with lung disease, his family said. He was 61. Banton contracted asbestosis after working for a James Hardie subsidiary from 1968 to 1974. Workers at the factory were known as "snowmen" because they were regularly coated with the white asbestos powder that the company made into fire-repellant wallboard and other products. He later became the public face of a lengthy political and legal battle that eventually persuaded the company to set up a compensation fund for victims of its products.
Former soldier to go to trial
A former soldier was yesterday committed to stand trial over the theft of army rocket launchers which ended up in the hands of a potential terrorist, court officials said. Dean Steven Taylor, 39, was committed for trial in the Sydney District Court for his role in the distribution of 10 rocket launchers which were stolen from the Australian Defence Force in 2002. Taylor, a former infantry corporal, allegedly received two rocket launchers, two rockets and five hand grenades from his former brother-in-law, army captain Shane Della-Vedova, who is accused of stealing the weapons while working as an armaments destruction specialist. Both men allegedly conspired to sell the weapons on to criminals for up to A$12,000 (US$10,500) each.
Dinosaur bones discovered
A hoard of dinosaur bones has been discovered at the site of a planned desalination plant meant to deliver Australia's second biggest city from drought, forcing a re-think of the A$3 billion (US$2.7 billion) project. The fossilized bones, estimated to be 115 million years old and belonging to dinosaurs and ancient marine reptiles, were found on a windswept beach in front of the planned project at Powlett River, southeast of Melbourne. "It's like boring through the tombs of Egypt's ancient emperors or drilling through the terra-cotta warriors in China after they were discovered," opposition lawmaker Ken Smith said, demanding a study before the project proceeds.
■ SOUTH KOREA
Yeosu to host Expo 2012
The city of Yeosu beat out contenders in Morocco and Poland to be chosen as the site for the 2012 World's Fair, which typically draws millions of visitors from around the globe, organizers said. The theme for the 2012 exposition is to be an environmental one: "The Living Ocean and Coast." Next year's World's Fair, also known as Expo 2008, will be held in Zaragoza, Spain, and in 2010 it will be in Shanghai.
■ HONG KONG
Calligraphy fails to sell
A rare copy of work by Wang Xizhi (王羲之), one of the most celebrated Chinese calligraphers, remained unsold after failing to win enough interest at Christie's Hong Kong auction on Monday. Mei Zhi Tie (妹至帖) a tracing copy of Wang's calligraphy from the Tang Dynasty, was billed as the highlight of the Fine Chinese Classical Paintings and Calligraphy sale at Christie's autumn auction. No actual works by the master survive, making this copy "an extremely rare find," the auction house said previously. Christie's had estimated the work would be sold for as much as HK$40 million (US$5 million) but the highest offer was HK$21 million. "The seller didn't want to sell at the price [offered]," a Christie's spokeswoman said.